Last night at 8pm, I sat for meditation and japa. This morning, I started the day with Gayatri mantra and surya namaskar. While my children are very interested in Mummy’s candles, incense and ‘singing’ (as they call chanting mantra), I’m the only practicing Hindu in the family (so far) and they would usually prefer to dance around to music or watch tv. But my son did join me for mediation last night, and my daughter was very interested to sit with me this morning and listen to Swamiji on the local Radio Berkshire discussing Makara Sankranti.
Starting last night and throughout today, Hindus and Indians of other faiths the world over begin celebrating this festival. Depending on where you are from, the festival is called one of several of names, celebrated for various reasons and in a variety of ways. So there is no way to say comprehensively, in a short post, just what Makara Sankranti (or Samkranti, Sankranthi, Pongal, Uttarayan or Maghi) exactly means to everyone. So rather than try to synopsise all the reasons for the festival and how it will be celebrated, I will highlight the ones that are pertinent to me and my family, and I will include Swamiji’s radio interview, where she explains more.
People exchange sweets as tokens of goodwill (traditionally halwa: sugar granules coated in sugar syrup; and til-gul ladoos: made from sesame seeds and jaggery – but in our household, Ferrero Rocher usually suffice). People greet each other with the words Tilgulghya, god god bola: Accept these and speak sweet words. I will also regale my children with my best American accent (I grew up in the USA) and the American colloquialism, “Give me some sugar,” which means ‘come here and give me a kiss’. Overall, this is a time to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends.
According to Hindu astrology (jyotish), Makara Sankranti is the day Surya (the Sun) enters Makara (Capricorn) and so begins the Northern journey of the Sun. This ‘summer journey of the gods’ is the time when we start to enjoy more daylight here in the northern hemisphere, and it is universally considered a time when your activities may well prove to be more auspicious – it’s a lucky time, so to speak.
Also, according to a story in the Puranas, on this day Surya visits the house of his son Shani (the planet Saturn), who is the lord of the Makar rashi (the zodiac Capricorn). Though the father and son do not get along well, Surya makes it a point to meet his son on this day each year. He remains in his son’s house, for a month (astrologically and metaphorically). This day thus symbolises the importance of the special relationship between father and son...
My own son likes that part very much and has been giving his father random hugs all day and trying to pronounce ‘Tilgulghya, god god bola’ (oh yes, and he and his sister have loved this latest reason to get more sweets!).